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free advice from…

FreeAdvice04-13 Dana Johnson

If you’re ready to go back to school but the thought of debt is holding you back, we’ve got good news: a debt-free education is possible. Dana Johnson attended college without student loans and launched @budgetadvisorblog to help others do the same. Below, she’s sharing her tips for hitting the books without borrowing. 

What resources do you recommend for going back to school debt-free?

The best resource is talking with the school you want to attend and asking about scholarship and grant opportunities. They typically have the best idea of the available resources specific to your situation. I, regretfully, did not apply for scholarships during my first two years of college because I didn’t know about them. I wish I had spoken to someone. One more resource is a book I would recommend called "Debt-Free Degree" by Anthony O'Neal. 

How do you budget on a student's income?

Write down all your monthly income (wages, scholarships, etc.) After that, list all your monthly expenses. If you want to go a step further, it helps to split them up as fixed and variable expenses. Total up your expenses (this includes tuition) to see how much your income covers. The goal of budgeting is to make sure your needs are covered first. If your spending is more than your income, see if any adjustments can be made to stick within your budget. 

Any tips for finding scholarships and grants for school?

1. Start by applying for scholarships offered by your prospective school. The scholarship pool is specifically for their students, making your chances of winning one higher. 

2. Work with your prospective school to find other scholarships. Usually this would be state-run scholarship funds that are specifically for people going to school in your state. 

3. Think outside the box. A few other places to look for potential scholarships are professional associations, your current place of employment, and student clubs or memberships. 

Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity. 

money win

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Jet-setting but don’t want to tow around your laptop in a bulky backpack? Tieghan Gerard, cookbook author and founder of the food blog Half Baked Harvest, told us about a $$$ bag she believes is worth the money.

What’s a recent purchase you made that felt like an investment?

I just purchased my first designer travel bag. I have been looking for a quality leather bag to carry on planes and finally found “the one.” It’s the perfect size! I have the larger, 17-inch MacBook, and it’s hard to find a chic travel bag that fits my computer and personal items that can go from the airport right into meetings or events. This bag checks all the boxes!

How much did you spend on it? 


Why do you consider it a worthy investment? 

I know I’ll have this bag for years and years to come. It’s timeless and has the potential to last a lifetime.

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